MAMAKATING — The Town of Mamakating is exploring the possibility of buying the Wurtsboro Airport.
The Mamakating Local Development Corporation is working as an intermediary between the town and owner Shalom Lamm in discussions.
“We’re looking to preserve the history, we’re looking to protect the water and preserve the scenic beauty because if somebody buys it, goodness knows what will happen to it,” said Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann.
The area by the airport is the town's largest water source, according to Herrmann.
Lamm did not respond to a request for comment left for him at the airport, and a woman hung up the phone at his Long Island home when called by a reporter.
Wurtsboro Airport, on Barone Road, opened in 1927, making it one of the oldest glider airports in the U.S. It consists of about 177 acres next to the Wurtsboro Ridge State Forest, according to online county property records.
There are currently between 50 and 60 gliders and planes housed at the airport, most of which are privately owned.
Lamm approached the town to ask if it would be interested in buying the airport and he has filed a request with the state to get permission to sell it, Herrmann said.
Herrmann said the process is still in its early stages and the town would not move forward without holding at least one public forum for residents to voice their opinions.
“What we’re told by the seller of the property is that it is currently operating in the black," Herrmann said. "We don’t feel that this is gonna be by any stretch a burden on the taxpayer.”
Mamakating contacted the Federal Aviation Administration for more information and the agency encouraged the town to buy it because it prefers ownership by a municipality, according to Herrmann.
The FAA also pledged to pay 90 percent of costs to upgrade the airport and the state would add another 5 percent, Herrmann said.
The supervisor downplayed any possibility that the town's history and legal clashes with Lamm over his controversial Chestnut Ridge development would come into play during these airport discussions.
“I think that Mr. Lamm, and I believe myself and the town board, are adult enough to look past that and say this is business, this isn’t personal," Herrmann said. "Quite honestly we’re looking to do something good for the people of Mamakating.”